A few weeks ago, I was an invited guest at Farmgrass Fundraiser VIP Gala, an event whose funds will support a newly created emergency medical fund for local, independent farmers. The fund is dedicated to helping farmers in the greater Austin area with medical emergencies that may prevent them from maintaining their farms and thus their livelihoods. The evening raised over $10,000!
The gala was hosted at the Austonian and the farm-to-table dinner was prepared by Chef Erik R. Zamora and provided by the following Texan farms:
Farmhouse Delivery – Austin, TX
Windy Meadows Family Farm – Schertz, TX
Loncito’s Lamb – Dinero, TX
Oak Hill Farm – Poteet, TX
Miguel Ortiz Farm – Mission, TX
Cooper Farm – Fairfield, TX
Village Farm – Marfa, TX
Labranza Farm- Buda, TX
Animal Farm – Cat Springs, TX
It was a happy surprise to run into my friends, the kindhearted and beautiful Melody of Gourmet Fury and Jane of A Taste of Koko. We were the only ones with the audacity to dip our toes into the pool while in cocktail dresses.
The next big fundraising event supporting this cause is Farmgrass Fest, a bluegrass concert at the Simmons Farm in Niederwald, TX on May 3rd. Tickets are $20 dollars from their website, $25 at the door. The bluegrass lineup includes The Gravy Brothers + Special Guests, Whiskey Shivers, The Lost Pines, Brennen Leigh & Noel McKay’s High Plains Jamboree, and Fog & Bone.
I find rainy day activities can be so good for the soul. Especially if it’s a novel activity with friends and food is involved. I spent my rainy Saturday with Anita, Amy, Kathy and Sarah dabbling in wood burning. Anita hosted a unique craft party sponsored by Brit&Co and Triscuit and we were her lucky guests.
Brit & Co. have wonderful craft kits you can purchase from their site. Their wood-burning standard kits have a wood-burning pen with four tips, a wood cheese board and a practice board. We had a lot of fun practicing with and testing out each of the four tips.
I love Anita’s honeycomb design. She cut out a paper hexagon and traced it with a pencil on to her board. We all agreed the straight-edge tip was the easiest tip to use for lines.
I opted for a vine design for my cheeseboard. The leaf tip was a pleasure to use. I pressed and held and there was no anxiety about smooth movement.
All of the finished boards were darling. A relief considering how nervous we all were handling wood-burning pens for the first time!
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mentioned our snacks. We snacked on deliciously adorned Triscuit crackers. Anita and Amy both played with toppings. My two favorites were the roasted marshmallow and peanut butter dusted in chocolate flakes and chevre mixed with honey, smoked black pepper and organic thyme (June’s Joy from Pure Luck Cheeses) topped with blackberries.
There’s something both satisfying and empowering about crafting and creating. I quite enjoyed spending a quiet rainy Saturday afternoon working (and eating!) with my hands!
Several weeks ago I was invited to Finn & Porter to a media tasting and I remain impressed by their service and Chef Peter Maffei’s execution of the menu. What follows is some of my favorite bites from a lovely night. Thank you, Finn & Porter!
Chicken Liver Pâté, sourdough bread, red onion marmalade
I grew up eating pâté, sometimes plain with just bread and other times as a spread in a banh mi sandwich. I think I smile every time I see pâté on a menu; I definitely smiled while eating this.
Pan Seared Scallops, with shaved brussel sprouts, warm bacon dressing and Jumbo Lump Crab Cake with red pepper celery salad
That crab cake was generous with the crab and slicing into a perfectly cooked scallop is one of my favorite pleasures in life. You cover that scallop with warm bacon dressing and you get pleasure on top of pleasure.
Confit Duck & Foie Gras Pot Pie
I brought Sugarface to this tasting and he isn’t the greatest fan of foie gras but this was his favorite dish. I claimed most of that beautifully seared piece of foie gras. They also used foie gras in the roux of this pot pie. Decadent and comforting, this pot pie was un-foie-gettable.
Trio of Roasted Beets with goat cheese and pistachio
Beets and goat cheese, a tried and true combination.
Grilled Gulf Shrimp over citrus, fennel, macadamia nuts salad
With confit grape, kohlrabi, pearl onion, and sherry jus, this quail was uniquely prepared. They used parts of the quail to make a quail sausage and stuffed the quail breast with the house-made sausage. It was also a treat not have to handle tiny quail bones.
Sea Bass with baby bok choy and roasted mushroom broth
This sous vide sea bass was my favorite entrée. The broth was light with just enough flavor to tantalize and draw you in for another taste. The sea bass flaked perfectly.
If you find yourself roaming the street these days of SXSW and are looking for a quiet cocoon in downtown, come give Finn & Porter a try!
For the next four days, Austin will have The French Bistro Pop Up lunch and dinner service from Michelin-Rated Chef Gérard Bossé and Chef Rémi Fournier at the French Legation Museum. They are here for SXSW and are serving 50 lunches and 50 dinners to a lucky 100. I had the pleasure of previewing their menu yesterday and it was quite a treat.
We sampled the sea bream in a fennel and carrot broth, seared scallops in a delectable meunière sauce, and my favorite was the caramel mousse with a crispy shortbread crust.
I am not a very good adult and consume coffee about four times as much as I do water. I love that Austin enables my addiction. For my coffee guide, I focused on places where you may not expect to find coffee, places that also serve alcohol, places great on sunny days, places to work, and of course places to flirt.
Unexpected Cups of Coffee
Not only can you get your grocery shopping done but you can also enjoy pour over coffee at their coffee bar/gelato stand. The North Lamar location has a lovely patio and sometimes live entertainment.
Flat Track Coffee
913 E Cesar Chavez St., Austin, TX 78702
Open: Monday – Friday 8a-6p; Saturday – Sunday 9a-6p
With five bar stools for seating, this is not the place to hunker down or lounge. Word on the street is this place is tiny and thus hard to find but their espresso game is strong. Pun intended. Points for being adjacent to a bookstore with no name.
400 Nueces St. Austin, TX 78701
Open: Monday – Friday 7a-70; Saturday 7a-6p; Sunday 8a-5p
Find this cheekily named coffee shop inside Mellow Johnny’s Bike Shop. They use Stumptown beans and serve sandwiches and breakfast tacos.
1401 South Congress Ave., Austin, TX 78704
Open: Monday – Friday 6a-8p; Saturday 7a-9p; Sunday 7a-8p
Shoe and eyeglasses store with a charity donation stop and coffee bar inside. Feel good and good about yourself when you enjoy a cup here.
They have delectable garlic fries and a proscuitto arugula pizza I love, but did you know they also have good coffee and desserts? I didn’t know about the coffee here until I started my coffee research.
Radio Coffee and Beer
4204 Manchaca Rd., Austin, TX 78704
Open: Monday – Friday 6:30a-12a; Saturday – Sunday 7:30a-12a
I’m a softie for repurposed houses. I like coming here after a long work week to just drink a half pour of a milk stout and then follow it up with a latte. The patio lounge chairs are inviting. No wifi after 5pm. I learned this the hard way! Come here to socialize in groups or enjoy the chill vibes with a date. Check out my friend Mad Betty’s review.
Oddly shaped seating arrangements can put you directly across and a couple of feet above someone, getting a view of the top of his or her head and they the view of your laptop or cleavage. Weirdly the seating arrangements makes for a very productive atmosphere. I love their specialty signature lattes Summermoon and Wintermoon (half moon). I get a quarter moon because even the half moon is too sweet for me. Delicious!
Seventh Flag Coffee Co
1506 S 1st St. Austin, TX 78704
Open: Monday – Friday 6:30a-7p; Saturday – Sunday 7a-7p
I enjoy sitting outside with company here but a peek inside tells me it’s a great place to work. Really clean and has a rustic feel. Has good wifi.
1010 E Cesar Chavez St., Austin, TX 78702
Open Monday – Friday 7a-11p; Saturday 8a-11p; Sunday 8a-4p
I came here to work once and sat by two people who met on Tinder on their first date. Which tells me Cenote caters to those who want to eat, to those who want to work, to those who want to mingle, to those who met on Tinder.
Another Austin icon and must visit. Great for dates and socializing. There is often live music and Amy’s Ice Cream and desserts. My coworker just told me he met his wife at Mozart’s. Consider that anecdotal evidence for Mozart’s being a good date spot.
I complied a list of date spots in Austin, Texas as part of the Austin Food Bloggers Alliance yearly city guide collaboration. What made this post both difficult and easy to write is that really any venue could be a great date spot if you’re spending time with someone you like and find attractive. That said, I focused on coffee date alternatives, spendy dates, dives and holes-in-the-wall, cozy and intimate restaurants, and picnic spots. I hope you enjoy this list and are inspired go on dates!
For when you’re tired of the coffee first date but aren’t ready to commit to a full meal
1713 S 1st St, Austin, TX 78704
Open: Tuesday – Thursday 11a-10p; Friday – Saturday 11a-12a. Closed Monday.
The first of a handful of repurposed houses in my list, Dolce Neve is relatively new in the gelato scene in Austin. The space is cheerful and bright, a great place for a casual date.
A coffee bar downtown, Halcyon has become an Austin staple and their table top s’mores an iconic Austin dessert. They often have live music in the evenings and serve comforting small bites and desserts.
I’m so happy that Austin finally has a snow ice cafe! Bright, casual, and a nice change to the coffee date. If you’ve never had snow ice, imagine gelato and shaved ice got together and had a baby. Their baby is snow ice.
For when you’re feeling spendy
Hudson’s On The Bend
3509 Ranch Rd 620 N, Austin, TX 78734
Open: Monday 6p-9p; Tuesday – Thursday 6p-10p; Friday-Saturday 5:30p-10; Sunday 6p-9p
When I think of Hudson’s On The Bend, I think classic fine dining in Austin. Hudson’s On The Bend may be my very first fine dining experience in Austin ten years ago. Hudson’s On The Bend has a beautiful property and specializes in game. You can say it has strong game game!
East Side King is an Austin must visit. With multiple locations with slight differences between the menus, I suggested this location for because of the homage to holes-in-the-wall. Tucked in the back of the bar, Hole in the Wall, this location is also the only location that serves ramen.
Kin & Comfort
1700 W Parmer, Ste 100, Austin, TX 78727
Open: Monday 11a-8p; Wednesday – Sunday 11a-8p. Closed Tuesday.
I miss living just behind this shopping center! Tucked inside Hanna World Market is Kin & Comfort. I’ve tried everything on the menu and liked it all. I recommend the Son-In-Law deviled eggs and Shrimp and Grits. On one of my visits, I dined with Mad Betty who wrote a great review. Since you’ll already be in the neighborhood, hop on over to Snow Monster for a fun dessert option.
Nau’s Enfield Drug
1115 W Lynn St, Austin, TX 78703
Open: Monday – Friday 7:30a-4p; Saturday 8a-4p; Sunday 10:30a-3:30p
I haven’t been here but have a list of places I want to hit up with Sugarface. He doesn’t know it yet unless he’s reading but this place is on the list! This is located in the back of a 50’s styled pharmacy and has a 50’s soda shop feel. They have an old fashion soda machine and serve burgers.
Arro is a sophisticated French restaurant with all the lighting and acoustics to facilitate eye gazing and intent listening. It’s been hit or miss with the food myself but many of my friends and acquaintances hold their food in high esteem.
1519 E Cesar Chavez, Ste 200, Austin, TX 78702
I attempted to go here once but the line was three hours long. Some of my close friends say Bufalina is one of their favorite date spots. Quaint space and great pizza. If you are discouraged by the line, take a leisurely stroll hand in hand to WeatherUp which usually doesn’t have outstanding waits.
I double date with Anita and her boyfriend pretty often with Sugarface. On one of our double dates, Anita’s boyfriend and I were engaged in some friendly trash talk. We were discussing flavors in a broth and fennel was brought up. I bragged that I make this delicious fennel and chicken dish. Anita’s boyfriend counters by saying he makes an awesome salmon fennel dish. We both then laid claim that our respective dishes trumps the other’s. Our playful banter escalated to a Fennel Off.
Our more humble significant others took the opportunity to try out fennel dishes to complement our main entrees. Sugarface made a delicious gin cocktail and appetizer and Anita made a fennel dessert. As we ate through the courses and found ourselves all enjoying each other’s contributions, our animosity died and we declared ourselves all winners. Details are now hazy but we might have all high-fived each other.
Sugarface’s cocktail had fennel and orange and gin and was so refreshing. Everyone except me had second cocktails. If I could handle my alcohol, I would have done so too!
Sugarface also made an apple, bacon, fennel chutney that we nibbled on while the salmon roasted. He cut down the bacon from half a pound to just over a quarter pound. We thought it was perfect. The three flavors went well together! I love that Sugarface’s contributions were both so different. One could say, they were like apples and oranges!
Anita’s boyfriend roasted salmon over fennel, onions, and cherry tomatoes. He is a health conscious person and likes staying away from starches and eating vegetables. After tasting this dish, I can see why he makes this pretty often. It’s tasty and you feel like a virtuous healthy person when you eat it. I don’t have a recipe link to share but it is a simple roast.
I roasted chicken thighs with fennel and lemon. This is one of my go to recipes for quite some time now. The very first time I made this dish was the first time I cooked with fennel. I remember being wary of having a licorice flavored chicken, but roasting does wonders to fennel and when you roast it with lemon, white wine, and chicken fat? Delectable! It also takes no time to make and is a great work day dinner recipe.
Finally, Anita made a fennel panna cotta. Remember when I told you how we called ourselves all winners? We did but then we tried Anita’s dessert and unanimously decided if there was going to be a winner for the night, it would be the panna cotta. Anita modified the recipe linked by serving it with raspberries instead of spiced pears. The fennel flavor really comes through in the panna cotta. It was a light texture with a distinct fennel flavor. I wanted to swim in it.
I know how dorky it sounds to say we had a double date centered around fennel, but it was truly a highlight of my weekend!
Question: Do you have any favorite fennel recipes? Please share!
Last night I was one of the invited guests to sample the eats at the newly opened, long awaited and the second largest JW Marriott in the world. They are barely open and are already booked solid! We sampled bites from Osteria Pronto, Corner Restaurant, and Burger Bar.
The first stop of our progressive meal and restuarant tour was Osteria Pronto. We sampled the Burrata, Ravioli Gamberi, Calamari, and Lemon Tart. Two of my favorite dishes of the night were the burrata and ravioli.
Burrata Campagna from Osteria Pronto; Prosciutto de Parma, tomato, balsamic jelly, pink peppercorns; $10
Fritto Misto from Osteria Pronto; calamari, shrimp, artichokes, pepperoncini; $11
Lemon Tart from Osteria Pronto
Our second stop of the night was at Corner Bar where we tried the moist and flavorful Zucchini Cornbread, Pork Carnita Tacos, a vegan Roasted Squash & Farro salad and a pumpkin cake with a delightful brown sugar icing (not photographed). My fellow diners made happy sounds of approval as they ate all four of these dishes. The roasted squash & farro salad was outstanding.
Zucchini Cornbread; $6 and Pork Carnita Tacos; $12 from Corner Restuarant
Our last stop for the night was outside the hotel in the brisk night air.
There’s a market for cheap eats downtown Austin for the late night bar hopping demographic, and JW Marriott has something easy on your wallet! On the side of the hotel facing Congress, there is a burger stand aptly named Burger Bar. Their burgers will cost you from $4.25 to $6.25. Soft serve cones are just $2.50.
Views from the Pool Deck
After the media event, I checked out the hotel’s pool deck. I had the entire pool deck to myself. I guess no one wanted to take a dip when it’s 30 something degrees out! Austin’s cityscapes are pretty aren’t they?
My roommate Ashley and I hosted our second monthly Brunch Club. You can read more about our first brunch here. I commandeered this month’s hosting from Anita because I wanted to have a Valentine themed brunch. Since childhood, I’ve been freakishly into Valentine’s Day.
I often get asked how I afford the travel and eating out that I do and there really isn’t real secret other than pay attention to prices, try to eat in, prioritize experiences over material goods, and be creative with what I already have. One of this year’s goals is to be more mindful with my money after spending 2014 like it was one big buffet and vacation. I opted for 3 dollar filler flowers from Trader Joe’s for our table accents.
A coworker had these paper decorations from a party he hosted and had no further need for them. He gifted them to me and I glued the paper hearts to the paper lanterns. The wall originally had a photo gallery of travel photos with a dominant color of blue. The deep blues clashed with the hanging decorations so I rearranged my wall hangings to break it up. I had a painting I wasn’t in love with so I spray painted it with colors I already had and stenciled a heart to add to the Valentine theme. The flutes were a dollar store score.
Anita made us adorable Valentine’s Day photo booth style cards. She used Artifact Uprising for the printing.
What I love about our Brunch Club is it’s a chance to catch up with my girlfriends, drink champagne and coffee, stay much longer than we would at a restaurant, try new recipes, and instagram without guilt.
Crispy Umami Chicken Wings; fish sauce vinaigrette, herbs, shallots; $9
These savory chicken wings remind me so much of Pok Pok’s Fish Sauce Fried Chicken Wings. It didn’t come as a surprise when I read later that these chicken wings were inspired by Pok Pok (a must eat if you ever eat in Portland!) Don’t be shy with these wings. Really dig in and don’t forget to lick your fingers.
Have I ever told you that for my 30th birthday, I had a Balls Party? Every guest was required to bring a food item that was in the shape of balls. I like balls. These would have been a hit at my party.
Lush Pork Belly Bowl; five spice pork belly, house kimchi (contains shellfish), pickled daikon carrots, 45 minute egg; $13
I was writing this blog post a couple of weeks ago while on a blogging date with Michelle of Foodie Is The New Forty and she kept talking about how the Pork Belly Bowl is one of her favorite dishes in Austin right now. I don’t know why I didn’t connect the dots that I in fact ate and loved the Pork Belly Bowl! Here is my evidence! How it slipped my mind is beyond me because it was my favorite dish here! And I agree with Michelle’s assessment. I’ll always order this bowl when I come to Peached.
Bacon Jam Fries; green onions, sharp cheddar, fried egg, chili aioli, $8
I know bacon’s glory days are purported to be long gone and some diners have begged for chefs to quit it with the bacon already. I’m not one of those diners. I’ll never give up on bacon. Or fries for that matter. So these Bacon Jam Fries are my jam.
Not pictured but also tasted was the Southern Fun (braised brisket, kale, bean sprouts, wide rice noodles; $13). I decided that when going to Peached Tortilla, it’s best to bring a few dining partners because how else are you supposed to eat your favorites? I have an obsession with noodles and have a hard time resisting them on most menus. Which means I’ll have to order this as well as my favorite entrée the Lush Pork Belly Bowl every time I’m here. Which means I should bring friends if I ever want to eat more of Peached’s menu. Glutton problems.
Singapore Fling ,coconut tapioca, palm sugar syrup, grilled Asian pear, lime zest; $7
In the back, a peek of the Nutella Banana Spring Rolls, $7.
For dessert we tried the Singapore Fling and the Nutella Banana Spring Rolls. I liked the Singapore Fling. It wasn’t too sweet which is what a lot of Asian desserts are like. It almost has an airy quality to it and I love its fragrance. My eating companions preferred the Nutella Banana Spring Rolls as it was a bit more heavy handed on the sugar because of the Nutella.
All in all, Peached Tortilla had a strong debut as a brick & mortar and I’m already looking forward to returning!